Picks of the Week – February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine’s lovebirds! This week Valentine’s Day and Lunar New Year Celebrations offer plenty to get you out of the house, the picks of the week will help to sort out what’s on.

Chocolate: Perfect for your after dinner chocolate craving, the Hot Chocolate Festival wraps up tonight.

Romance:  Romance week at Vancouver TheatreSports League wraps up tonight but the laughter never ends at the Improv Centre.

Pucks: The Vancouver Canucks take to the ice twice this week; tonight vs Florida then again on Saturday against Boston.

Jabberwocky
photo: Jason Strang

Cultures:  The Cultch York Theatre has Jabberwocky, a dark puppet work inspired by Lewis Carroll, while at the Vancity Culture Lab features No Foreigners a multimedia presentation on race and home, both shows running until February 17th

Rock: Thursday night Cincinnati based rock act Walk the Moon take to the stage at the Vogue Theatre

Elle & Warner
photo: Anita Alberto Photography

Musical:  Learn to bend and snap as Align Entertainment brings the award winning, bubbly Legally Blonde the Musical to the stage at Michael J Fox Theatre, until February 17th

Pop: Friday night, see what the buzz is about when English songstress Dua Lipa takes to the Vogue Theatre stage.

Exhibition: The Vancouver Art Gallery celebrates the opening of Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg with a birthday bash, preview, dinner and party, the day before the opening of the Japanese artist’s first Canadian retrospective.

Next: West Moon Theatre has dual casts tackling the Pulitzer prize winning musical Next To Normal at Studio 16 from tonight until February 17th

Lunar: Celebrate the Lunar New Year with Year of the Dog Lunar Fest at Oakridge Centre and the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza through the new year.

Dragon:  At Fly Over Canada it’s a Lunar New Year double-bill of Flight of the Dragon, along with the regular Fly Over Canada experience, only until February 18th.

Moon: The Canadian Classic play, Salt-Water Moon, comes to the Gateway Theatre from February 15 – 24

Theatre: The Arts Club has the backstage antics of Jitters on at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until February 25 and the Tony award winning Fun Home at Granville Island Stage running until March 10

Jazz: Sunday night, the Chan Centre welcomes South African Jazz legends The Jazz Epistles: Abdullah Ibrahim with guest Terence Blanchard 

 

 

Next To Normal tackles mental illness

West Moon Theatre is presenting the award-winning rock musical Next To Normal at Studio 16 Theatre until February 17th.

In a unique turn, this production is double cast with two separate casts taking on the challenging musical’s heavy content and numbers.  The double cast allows for two interpretations of the characters and brings a different dynamic to the alternate performances.  The performance I had the privilege of seeing was the opening night for Cast A.  Director Chris Lam has noted that the expanded cast promotes diverse casting and representation, as the younger cast of many recent graduates have the opportunity to work alongside experienced professionals.

Next To Normal looks at a family with a mother with Bipolar Disorder and the fall out that her mental illness has on the rest of her family.  Diana (played in Cast A by Marie West) is consumed by her illness and with the support of husband Dan, (Mark Wolf) tries various treatments to find a ‘normal’ life.  Daughter Natalie (Katrina Teitz) overachieves in hopes of attaining her mother and father’s recognition but Diana’s illness, and her brother Gabe, who seemingly can do no wrong, always seems to take their attention from her.  As Diana and the family battle the ups and down of her illness the audience can’t help but have a sense of anxiety too in the unknown that lays ahead for them.

A musical as well known as Next To Normal and the award-winning performances of the original Broadway casts, puts a lot of pressure on the cast to make their own mark on the characters.  Chris Lam’s direction strips the play to its bare bones, focusing on the characters and exposing their flaws and fears.  In the intimate space of Studio 16, and with the very stripped down staging, the audience is so close to the action it feels like they’re sitting in the kitchen with the family.

The small orchestra is also onstage with the players, at first a worry that the music would overtake the acting but the instrument volume was just right.  While there was some audio technical issues during the second act, one speaker wasn’t working well, making the audio slightly difficult to hear at times, the cast put their hearts into their vocals. Marie West tears into the songs, tackling the Tony Award winning role with all her might but at times her vocals were difficult to distinguish on the polyphonic numbers.  Mark Wolf’s voice stood out with the perfect level to fill, but not overpower, the small room. Wolf and Blake Sartin (playing Henry, Natalie’s boyfriend) harmonize perfectly in their answer to each other on “A Promise’.  Katrina Teitz was a bit pitchy but her characterization of the put-upon Natalie showed her potential for the future.  Having seen Daren Dyhengco, who like Teitz is a grad of Capilano U Theatre program, only in the dramedy The Day Before Christmas, I wasn’t sure how he would carry the heavier message and cornerstone songs of Next To Normal but he too showed great lead actor potential.

West Moon Theatre’s Next To Normal runs at Studio 16, 1555 W 7th Ave, until February 17, 2018.
Tickets are available online at nexttonormalvan.brownpapertickets.com

 

Picks of the Week – February 7, 2018

These picks of the week find us moving into our first long weekend of 2018 and the Valentine and Lunar New Year season.

Taste: Vancouver Foodster’s Tasting Plates explores Mount Pleasant along Main Street, tonight February 7th

Musical:  Learn to bend and snap as Align Entertainment brings the award winning, bubbly Legally Blonde the Musical to the stage at Michael J Fox Theatre, until February 17th

Next: West Moon Theatre has dual casts tackling the Pulitzer prize winning musical Next To Normal at Studio 16 from tonight until February 17th

Lunar: Oakridge Centre kicks off the Lunar New Year with Year of the Dog Lunar Fest celebrations through the new year.

SHIT
photo: Emily Cooper

Profane: The Firehall Arts Centre is presenting the Canadian premiere of Australian playwright Patricia Cornelius’ SHIT a graphic look at the lives of three incarcerated women until February 10th.

Theatre: The Arts Club fill their stages with Topdog/Underdog playing at the Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre until February 11th,  Jitters on at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until February 25 and starting tomorrow the Tony award winning Fun Home begins at Granville Island Stage running until March 10

Chocolate: Sip your way around the city with the warmth of the Hot Chocolate Festival on until February 14th

Jabberwocky
photo: Jason Strang

Cultures:  The Cultch York Theatre has Jabberwocky, a dark puppet work inspired by Lewis Carroll, while at the Vancity Culture Lab features No Foreigners a multimedia presentation on race and home, both shows running until February 17th

Broadway: The Queen Elizabeth Theatre will be a sing-along this week as Broadway Across Canada brings Motown: The Musical to the stage until Sunday.

Romance: Spread the laughter and love at Vancouver TheatreSports League as they celebrate Romance Week, with romantically themed improv shows until February 14th

Dragon: In celebration of the Lunar New Year, Fly Over Canada once again presents a double-bill of Flight of the Dragon, along with the regular Fly Over Canada experience, for a limited time, only until February 18th.

Exhibition: On Friday, the Vancouver Art Gallery celebrates the opening of Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg with a birthday bash, preview, dinner and party, the day before the opening of the Japanese artist’s first Canadian retrospective.

 

 

A Little Night Music lights the Gateway Theatre season

Cast Photo: Emily Cooper

Gateway Theatre’s 2017 / 2018 season got underway this week with a lavish performance of Stephen Sondheim’s classic A Little Night Music.

A co-presentation with Patrick Street Productions, and directed by Peter Jorgensen, the Tony award winning musical is set in Sweden at the turn of the last century.  A tale of romance and class structure,  as characters deal with forbidden lust, infidelity, long-lost loves,  jealousy and reminisce about past liaisons. Through the characters’ trials and tribulations of love Jorgensen lets the comedy of the situations shine through.  The director took inspiration from Ingmar Bergman, the director of the source film of the musical, Smiles of  Summer Night, finding comedy in tragedy.  Patrick Street Productions and Jogensen have added their modern touch to the show with hints of sexual fluidity in the maid Petra’s character.

Kimmel & Wright
photo: Emily Cooper

Led by the always dependable Warren Kimmel as Fredrick Egerman, and Katey Wright as Desiree Armfeldt, who both have the acting and musical talents to all eyes on them when they’re onstage.  The cast also included stand-out turns from Arinea Hermans and Caleb Di Pomponio as Fredrick’s virgin (2nd) bride and his angst-ridden son, Henrick. Nick Fontaine’s Count Carl-Magnus and Lindsay Warnock as his put-upon wife, Countess Charlotte provide scenery chewing comedy performances. Young Elizabeth Irving displays talent beyond her years as Desiree’s daughter, Fredricka.  The capable ensemble rounds out the cast, making the performance light and breezy, in spite of its 2.5 hour run time.  Coming towards the end of the show, the musical gets late energy boost from the famed Send In The Clowns.  Throughout the show, Sondheim’s music, and Hugh Wheeler’s book, share the storytelling duties effortlessly.  Alan Brodie’s simple set and lighting design help to highlight Jessica Bayntun’s lush, period costumes.

Set & Lighting Design by Alan Brodie, photo by Emily Cooper.jpg

Find your own reasons to love and laugh as A Little Night Music continues at Gateway Theatre until October 21st.

13: The Musical brings back teen spirit

L to R: Julian Lokash (Archie), Julia Mclean (Patrice), Graham Verchere (Evan), Jason Sakaki (Brett), Kyra Leroux (Kendra), Michelle Creber (Lucy)
Photo Credit: Anita Alberto

Bring On Tomorrow Co’s production of 13 : The Musical, now playing at Waterfront Theatre, brilliantly brings back all the feelings of adolescents.  We’ve all been haunted by the spirits of teen angst but thankfully it’s much more enjoyable watching the trials and tribulations when it’s happening to someone else.

The company, made completely of teenaged actors, bring to life Dan Elish’s story of Evan Goldman.  Ripped from the comfort of his New York City life and plunked into Appleton, Indiana just as he turns 13 years old.  With his Bar Mitzvah plans now thrown into array, Evan must balance the tricky teen worlds of popularity and friendship.

Graham Verchere brings Evan to the stage with a believable awkward innocence of a boy becoming a man, or at least trying to navigate his way to teenhood, with a little help from his friends.  Patrice, literally the girl next door, played beautifully by Julia Maclean, and Archie, Julian Lokash, plays the ‘boy with the terminal illness’ not to be laughed at but laughed with.  While every character has moments of light and dark the powerhouse performance of Michelle Creber as Lucy the main manipulator of the gang, is a girl everyone remembers from school as is Brett, played by Jason Sakaki, the quintessential jock.

Just like back in school, the girls have developed earlier than the boys.  Most of these female performers have rich powerful voices while the adolescent boys bring back those memories and blushes of the occasional cracks and squeaks when you least expect them, bringing even more reality to Jason Robert Brown’s songs.  Chris Adams direction and Nicol Spinola’s choreography work hand in hand to juggle the large ensemble as they recreate the energy of the Dan Quayle Junior High School student body. Christopher David Gauthier’s simple set design makes quick changes to reveal all the halls and rooms of the school.

While Bring On Tomorrow Co’s 13 : The Musical ends on October 8th, if you have the chance get out and see it.  Relive the comedy and tragedy of being 13,  there’s sure to be a character who reminds you of someone you went to school with, if not yourself.

Bring On Tomorrow Co brings us 13: The Musical

L to R: Julian Lokash (Archie), Julia Mclean (Patrice), Graham Verchere (Evan), Jason Sakaki (Brett), Kyra Leroux (Kendra), Michelle Creber (Lucy)
Photo Credit: Anita Alberto

Bring On Tomorrow Co. is thrilled to present Jason Robert Brown’s 13: The Musical, the hilarious and charming Broadway hit about growing up.  It’s a musical everyone can relate to, we’ve all been teenagers.

Uniquely, 13: The Musical features a cast comprised completely of teenagers, the original Broadway run featured a number of now familiar names making their professional debuts like Ariana Grande, Elizabeth Gillies, Eric Nelson and others who have gone on to establish careers in TV, Broadway and Music.  This local production features a fresh cast of teen actors who are already making names for themselves on stage and screen.

“When 13: The Musical made its 2008 debut – as the first-ever Broadway show to feature an all-teenage cast – audiences were taken with its young stars”, says director Chris Adams. “Having teens play teen characters was a winning decision for its creators: no one can better convey an authentic youth’s perspective than those on the front lines of adolescence. In the same spirit, our production showcases some of Vancouver’s most accomplished performers age 18 and under. We can’t wait to unveil their collective magic as they light up the stage.”

With a book written by acclaimed young adult novelist Dan Elish with TV producer & writer Robert Horn, 13: The Musical is set in the uncertain days of middle school, the clever coming of age story follows 12-year-old Evan Goldman who is abruptly yanked from his New York City life in the aftermath of his parents’ divorce. Transplanted to small town Indiana, Goldman finds himself navigating the popularity pecking order, while planning what he hopes will be an epic Bar Mitzvah attended by all the ‘cool kids.’ Amidst love-triangle debacles and matchmaker fiascos, Evan eventually gives up the angst-filled chase for ‘it’ crowd status and marks his first step into adulthood among his real friends.
Take a look at the trailer for Bring On Tomorrow Co’s 13: The Musical

13: The Musical runs September 28 – October 1 and October 4 – 8 at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island.
Tickets are onsale now from Bring On Tomorrow Co.

Mary Poppins flies into Theatre Under The Stars

The 2017 Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) season got under this week with the opening of Mary Poppins.  A summer tradition for over seventy years, TUTS brings another great family favourite musical to Malkin Bowl.

Mary & Bert with Jane & Michael Banks
photo: Tim Matheson

One of the most beloved Disney movies of all time comes to the stage as Mary Poppins the Musical.  Like the original film, Mary Poppins the Musical is loosely based on P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins books. However, this Cameron Mackintosh – Disney theatrical production returns some characters from the original books and drops others from the film.  A combination of songs from the Disney film and new pieces move the story along, in a new order and with new set pieces.

As often with TUTS productions, directed by Theatre Under The Stars veteran Shel Piercy, this version of Mary Poppins the Musical includes a large cast and company.  Lead by Ranae Miller as the magical nanny Mary Poppins, and Victor Hunter as jack-of-all-trades Bert, cast stand outs include the entire Banks family, Lalainia Lindbjerg-Strelau adds an emotional turn as Mrs Banks, the matriarch looking for her place and position in society and her family. In contrast, Russell Roberts as Mr George Banks adds the burden of being the master and breadwinner for the family.   Lola Marshall as Jane and Nolen Dubuc as Michael, the much in need of a nanny, Banks children are stand outs. Both young players have great tone and blend together perfectly in many of their harmonized songs as well they maintain their accents better than some of the adult actors.  This Mary Poppins story shifts the focus a bit more to the growth and development of the whole Banks family, making all of them more central than in the film.

Mary & Bert on a Jolly Holiday
photo: Tim Matheson

Since Mary Poppins must share the Malkin Bowl stage with The Drowsy Chaperone (on alternate nights) the stage has to be less permanent than in some other stagings. Set designer Brian Ball has created an imaginative set that takes us seamlessly through the songbook; from the Banks family residence; upstairs (Cherry Tree Lane), downstairs (A Spoonful of Sugar) and up to the rooftops (Chim Chim Cher-ee), then to the park (Let’s Go Fly A Kite), and George’s workplace at the bank (Precision and Order) or the steps of St Paul’s (Feed The Birds).  Along the way intricate choreography and prop work make full use of the 30+ cast to create some stunning showstopper numbers that are worth seeing the show for on their own; Jolly Holiday pays special homage to the Disney film’s animation with a pair of penguins joining the dance at Bert’s feet.  Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, now taking place at Mrs Corry’s Shop, becomes a technicolour dance extravaganza, and Step In Time is a high-kicking romp across the rooftops of London.

Even if you’ve seen the film or another live musical production, this Theatre Under The Stars production of Mary Poppins the Musical is a Practically Perfect, (to borrow from Mary’s intro song), evening at the theatre.

Theatre Under The Stars presents Mary Poppins The Musical on alternating evenings at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park until August 18, 2017. Tickets available online at tuts.ca

A showstopper Jolly Holiday
photo: Tim Matheson